Trout stocking can be tricky.
Each year, stocking crews and volunteers head out with planned lots of trout species in fixed numbers at chosen sites for release. Despite the best laid plans, changes in water levels, clarity, temperatures and a multitude of other program challenges each new season confront those working to provide anglers with good fish stocks and enjoyable outings.
On Wednesday while setting up to stock East Koy Creek near Gainesville in Wyoming County, senior fisheries biologist Scott Cornett took a water temperature sampling. During the 2011 stocking at this site, the water was 32 degrees; this year the gauge read 49 degrees.
Randolph Hatchery manager Rich Borner notes that water temperatures are critical when rearing and especially when transferring fish from hatchery ponds to stocking sites around Western New York.
A 50-degree reading has hatchery folk alerted to possible harm for hatchery trout.
"With this heat we've had ponds aerated for more than two weeks now," Borner said Thursday while setting up for deliveries in Chautauqua County.
The Randolph Hatchery has a good, cool water supply. Trout stocked before the April 1 opener looked healthy at all sites. Borner adds no harm is expected for stocking after the April 1 inland trout season opener, despite the above average winter and early-spring air temperatures.
Fine temperature tuning comes when transferring trout.
"For stocked fish to survive, the fish need temperatures of less than a 10 degree difference from hatchery waters to release sites," Borner said. To ensure trout survival, hatchery personnel check readings each day to be sure fish will transition well when in the wild.
This mild winter and exceptionally warm early spring has boosted the metabolism of fish. Borner noted that yearly brown trout actually showed slower growth. But anglers can look forward to greater sizes of brook trout and two-year-old brown trout that came from the Caledonia Hatchery.
Keying on East Koy
Scott Cornett engages in all trout stocking efforts, but conditions at East Koy Creek around Pike and Gainesville are of particular concern to a Angler Survey and Electrofishing study conducted in 2011 to 2013.
"This is one of many statewide studies to look at the status of stocked fish stocked," Cornett said of the program for Region 9 in Western New York. Similar "Fate of Stocked Trout" studies are being conducted across the state to assess survival rates and conditions for stocked versus wild trout anglers encounter while fishing area waters.
Results of the 2011 study found most angler pressure in April with abundant stocks of brown trout remaining in East Koy in May. However, the August electrofishing survey turned up more than twice as many wild brown trout than stocked browns in a fish-per-mile study.
Angler participation and successes have declined since the 1996-97 survey. Trout fishermen in 2011 logged 235 hours per surface acre. The 1996 count went to 418 hours and 1997 saw 831 hours devoted to trout fishing.
Catch rates dropped from about one fish per hour in 1996 to 0.44 per hour along the East Koy, with light angling use from July to October. However, catch-and-release trout fishing has caught on here. Anglers surveyed last year caught 852 trout and released 74 percent.
Rebecca Segelhurst assisted on the Wednesday East Koy stocking and will work as a survey technician on that creek's waters this trout season. Previous and current reportsindicate good trout presence.
Trout stocking figures for East Koy Creek by the end of May will total more than 10,000 yearling browns and more than a thousand two-year-old brown trout.
To sign on as an East Koy participating Angler Survey diary keeper, call 372-0645. For study summaries, go to dec.ny.gov/outdoor/27272.html.